Investing in Place Recap: Opportunity Zones and Ecosystem Building

Upstate Capital hosted an event on October 25 to discuss Opportunities Zones and Impact Investing at the FDR Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York. (Pictured L-R Kevin Irby, Threadspan; Helene Lesterlin, CO; Matt Stinchcomb, Good Work Institute; Eban Goodstein, Bard College)

Over 70 investors, entrepreneurs and professional advisors gathered to meet the people on the leading edge of the new Opportunity Zones investment program along with the broad landscape of entrepreneurial ecosystem development on October 25. First, Upstate Capital members and invited guests were invited to tour the FDR Library and Museum. 

Paul Hakim, with Pioneer Realty Advisors and the Hudson Valley Startup Fund, gave an overview on Opportunity Zones. He explained how Opportunity Zones are investment vehicles seeded with capital gains from investors. In Opportunity Funds, investors get graduated series of federal tax incentives tied to long-term holdings. Communities gain access to capital from private investors, increasing access to capital both for real estate and operating businesses in economically disadvantaged areas in a subset of federal low-income census tracts.

Matt Wachter, the Vice President of Finance and Development for the Erie Downtown Development Corporation (EDDC) in Pennsylvania shared his experience launching one of the first Opportunity Zone Funds in the country. The EDDC has raised approximately $30M for the acquisition and restoration of real estate, and they’re working with with national investment funds, philanthropic organizations, and urban planning leaders to leverage investment through Opportunity Funds.

Martin Babinec, an individual investor through his family office, UpVentures Capital, talked about his perspective on Opportunity Zones, and how he is managing risk as he paces toward the closing of his first couple of investments with the program.

Martin is also involved with ecosystem building in the area through the StartFast Venture Accelerator and Upstate Venture Connect. He was joined by Tony DiMarco and Marnie LaVigne, all working to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem across Upstate New York.

Tony is a Founding Manager of the Hudson Valley Startup Fund, and he described the ecosystem and all the organizations that have had an impact in the region in a complicated slide. Despite broad representation from a number of places, the Hudson Valley is behind other regions in terms of funding activity and cohesion of an accessible ecosystem regionally. His goal, through the Hudson Valley Venture Hub, is to improve access to capital and access to mentorship for startups.

Marnie Lavigne is the President and CEO of LaunchNY, a Buffalo-based venture development organization.  Launch NY was the most active seed investor across Upstate NY last year, and she’s look at ways to leverage Opportunity Zones Funds since over 60% of the startups in her support organization’s networking are in Opportunity Zones.

We’d like to thank ThinkDutchess and the Hudson Valley Startup Fund for supporting the event.

Congratulations to Dede Hourican, the Assistant Dean at the School of Computer Science and Mathematics at Marist College. Dede won our raffle, and $100 was donated to the charity of her choice, Mid Hudson Animal Aid.

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